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  • Edited, Translated, and Compared with the Pāli, The Beginnings of Buddhist Ethics: The Chinese Parallel to the Kūṭadantasutta
  • Ann Heirman (bio)
Konrad Meisig. Edited, Translated, and Compared with the Pāli, The Beginnings of Buddhist Ethics: The Chinese Parallel to the Kūṭadantasutta. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011. vii, 120 pp. Paperback €38, ISBN 978-3-447-06459-0.

As the title indicates, this book presents an edition and a translation of the Chinese parallel to the Kūṭadantasutta, part of the Pāli Dīghanikāya, Collection of Long Discourses. The core message of the sutta is an appeal for animal-free, and thus bloodless, sacrifices in which no killing is involved.

The first part of the book (pp. 1–11) provides a detailed overview of all Chinese and Pāli versions of the Kūṭadantasutta, with a meticulous description of some errors occurring in these. In addition, some Sanskrit fragments and the Sanskrit Dīrghāgama manuscript, probably belonging to the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, as researched by Jens-Uwe Hartmann, are taken into account.1 This very technical part of the book equally provides an interesting insight into the interrelations of all extant versions and manuscripts of the Kūṭadantasutta. It is followed by a critical edition of the Chinese versions and their Pāli parallel. For the Chinese text, a version in characters and a pinyin transcription are provided. Detailed notes are given on Chinese transcriptions of the underlying Indic terms and on equivalent Prākrit, Pāli, or Sanskrit terms. It is a pity, however, that some Indic (mostly Pāli) terms and expressions given in comparison to the Chinese text are not followed by any explanation or translation. For readers with no, or only a limited, knowledge of Pāli, these comparisons thus become difficult to understand. Just two examples: note 22 (p. 15) gives some information on the term “generation”: “世 shi ≠ DĀ 94a24 ≠ pā. pitāmahayuga.” No further explanation is given. Note 114 (p. 37) [End Page 352] comments on the sentence, “He is also respected by gods and ghosts”: “This sentence is vaguely similar to DN 132,12–14: samaṇaṃ khalu bho gotamaṃ anekāni devatāsahassāni pāṇehi saraṇaṃ gatāni.” No translation of the Pāli sentence is provided.

In the main part of the book, which deals with the critical edition of the Chinese and Pāli versions, a translation of the Chinese edition follows after each relevant text passage. Pāli sections with no Chinese parallel have been left untranslated, a choice that I personally regret. Still, the translation of the Chinese version is very instructive, and the notes that go with it refer readers to the most relevant academic works on translation of Buddhist Chinese. The notes are very detailed and reveal with how much care the translation has been made, and how every term has been very well considered. In contrast to the meticulous information on decisions taken when translating, however, content information is relatively scarce. Yet it would have been quite helpful for readers to learn more on the concepts used. What, for instance, is the impact of “the threefold sacrifice and the sixteen utensils for the sacrifice,” mentioned on pages 25, 41, 45, 78, and 80–84? How important are all these concepts in the context of the Kūṭadantasutta? In another example, on page 36, notes 109–111, the Brahmins Pokkharasādi, Tārukkha, and Soṇadaṇḍa are introduced. Although the phonetic translations of the terms in Chinese are discussed in detail, no explanations are given on the Brahmins themselves. Are they known figures? What is their role in Buddhist literature? This scarcity of information also applies to questions about sacrifices, the core theme of the Kūṭadantasutta, in which a shift from animal sacrifices to animal-free sacrifices, based on a Buddhist moral discourse, is the central motive. In this context, more information on Vedic sacrifices could help readers to have a better understanding of what exactly is happening and of the impact of Buddhist changes. In the same vein, more explanatory data on the...


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